“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Do you remember that question? I do. Its a very vivid memory because it seemed to be easy for everyone to answer, but myself. “An astronaut… No, a fireman… No, a doctor…” Why am I answering this? I’m only eight-years-old! I don’t think that any kid would imagine that they would grow up to work in front of a computer all day, making at least sixty cold calls, and talking to foreign engineers about a job that they probably don’t want.
For the past six years, I’ve worked as a technical recruiter for growing startups. Before that, I worked as a real estate agent. I don’t regret any of the jobs I’ve ever had, but they never fulfilled me. Along the way, I was finally able to answer that childhood question. A few years back, I awoke from an amazing dream. It was full of mythical beasts, beautiful lands, and an incredible story about a young princess in a far off world.
I grabbed a yellow note pad from my desk and wrote furiously for the next four hours. It was five in the morning by the time I finished. It was the beginning of a story that would take me three months to write and eight years to publish.
“I want to be an author!” The little eight-year-old inside of me said.
I finally found it. That purpose. That desire and passion. What I realized was that it was always there, just underneath the noise of everyday life. I finally listened.
Now that I’ve written and published two books (in a five-part series), I have quit my job and I’m hitting the road in truck camper that is wrapped in the image of the first book. I’ll be chasing that dream, visiting cool indie bookstores, and touring some of the greatest locations in this country.
I hope that I may inspire others to chase their dreams.
“So… What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In June, the Alliance of Young Adult Authors is sponsoring a massive young adult scavenger hunt. This is a chance to meet some new authors, grab a bunch of free books, and sign up to win a whole bunch of epic prizes!
RULESEach author will be given a special keyword, which will be bolded and all caps like this: BUTTERFLIES. All you have to do is visit all the author's sites in this order, write down the special keywords to discover the short story, then enter the giveaway with the completed secret legend HERE. There will be one main giveaway for the main prize, but most of the participating authors will also have smaller giveaways for free books, amazon credit and author swag, so make sure you read their post carefully to see what else they're offering while you're on their site for the keyword.
THE MAP (participating authors)
Starts June 1st!Just go through the "treasure map" above to find the keywords and reconstruct the secret legend. Once you've got it, enter for the grand prize HERE. Don't forget to keep an eye out for other giveaways or free books as you search for the keywords, most authors will be offering their own prizes as well.
For rules, updates or trouble-shooting, make sure to check out this main post which will stay updated.
I recently took part in a book blog tour, and answered a few questions for readers. Here is the Q&A:
- What are your top ten mythology stories?
1. The Iliad - Easily my favorite of all mythological stories
2. Paradise Lost - Classic story
3. Jason and the Argonauts - Classic movie
4. Hercules - Any book, movie, or story based on his life.
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? - Coen Brothers are amazing
6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Because, why not?
7. Stargate - Yes, alien myths can be included, right?
8. 300 - Beautiful cinematography
9. The Bible - Whether true or not, this book has provided the basis for many stories
10. Theseus and the Minotaur - Because I’m studying this story for my third novel
- What inspires me the most
I remember, as a kid, huddling under my covers with my flashlight and a book. It was a time that I could escape into another world. What inspires me most is the joy from a kid who has read my books and has escaped into the world of Sonora. That excitement and enthusiasm has meant more to me than anything I’ve ever done in my life.
Another inspiration is passion, and the freedom to explore. Growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I tried many different things in school, but nothing really clicked. That didn’t change when I got to college. Had I listened to myself, I would have found that I loved telling stories, but my mind became too practical. I had to find a career where I could support myself. I started out in real estate, which ultimately ended with the recent economic crash of 2008. I also jumped into recruiting for corporations, which I loathed. I believe that if you give yourself to your passion, then you can build a career at it.That is where I’m at today, and I will continue on that path no matter how difficult it becomes.
- What are your top ten favorite authors and movies
1. J.R.R. Tolkien
2. J.K. Rowling
3. Edgar Allen Poe
4. Brian Jacques
5. C.S. Lewis
6. Ernest Hemingway
7. Gertrude Chandler Warner
8. Daniel Quinn
9. Roald Dahl
10. Dr. Seuss
3. V for Vendetta
4. Star Wars
5. Forrest Gump
6. Indiana Jones
7. Finding Nemo
8. Lord of the Rings
10. Fight Club
- How I came up with the idea for my novel?
A dream. I had been immersed in a dream that was so real, I thought I might have lived it in another life. It centered around a royal baby, and her journey out of this world and into our own. I awoke one spring night in 2009 and began writing furiously onto a yellow notepad for 4 hours. By the time I was done, it was 6am and I had written 40 pages about this dream. It was as if I was possessed with an idea. From there, I wrote for 3 months straight. I didn’t realize I was even writing a book until I was 100 pages into the story. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I had to keep going. The entire story begins sixteen years after this baby left the world of Sonora, and came to Earth.
The rest of the novel was created as I went through her quest to find the truth. I derived a lot of the characters and framework for the adventures from my own experiences and those of my favorite stories. You’ll find a lot of inspiration from ancient mythologies in my novel, as well as aspects of my favorite books and movies. This will be a five-part series. I have a basic framework and outline for the whole story, but most of my creativity happens as I work through each book.
- What was your favorite part in writing this story?
I loved writing the comedic dialogue or humorous aspects of the characters. Also, I love coming up with a new interpretations of existing folklore, such as a spin on Greek mythology or popular stories told from a different angle.
- Do you have a favorite character that you wrote for this story?
Sas! He is a bumbling Sasquatch/Bigfoot. I would say he’s a mix of Harry Henderson and Chewbacca. I love that character!
- Did you get any writer's block while writing Sonora and the Eye of the Titans?
I never got writer’s block while working on the first book (Sonora and the Eye of the Titans). It flowed out of my head seamlessly for some reason. The second and third book have been a different story. They are much more difficult to work through because you really have to maintain a full grasp of the series, and the direction you want the characters to take.
- Do you have any new projects coming up and if so can you tell us about it?
This series is in five parts, so it will take a bit of time to complete, but I am thinking about working on a prequel series that takes place around the time of Zeus. That one should be fun to write!
- Tell us about the main character in Sonora and the Eye of the Titans. Who is Allora?
Allora is a shy, yet opinionated teenager who is unaware of her subtle beauty. She is coming to terms with her inner strength and otherworldly origin, while still trying to feel normal in the high school environment. Her confidence builds as the story moves along. The issues that she finds important also shifts. With that, the pressure of her lineage brings its own set of problems and she struggles to find the right path. She is also very strong-willed, intelligent, kind, and honest girl.
- Is this a standalone novel or will it be part of a series?
This is the first book in a five-part series.
- The book looks like an interesting mesh of urban fantasy, mythology, and science fiction. Tell us a bit about how they blend together in the story.
The books are definitely a mesh of all three genres. I’ve tried to create a world where magic is explained through science, while also making magic unexplainable, just as spirituality requires us to believe in that which we can not see. Regarding mythology, I always wondered why the ancient gods of our stories were so flawed. That made no sense to me, unless those beings were really just mortals with special gifts or abilities beyond human comprehension at that point in time.
- What are you reading right now, or what was the last book you read?
Last two books I read were Red Rising and I Am Pilgrim. My reading selection is rather diverse. I love all books - even romantic comedy ;)
- If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would you entertain? What would you serve?
The Mad Hatter! Oh, god, that would be hilariously fun! I would serve coffee instead of tea just to see what he would do.
- Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you or your novel?
I’m actually heading out on a 6-month book tour starting in Portland, OR at the end of May. I’ll be wandering around the US going in a clockwise circle on the outer states and visiting indie bookstores along the way. If you follow the book tour site, it’ll show where I’m heading next!
- Where can readers find you online?
- What is your favorite part of the story, SONORA AND THE EYE OF THE TITANS?
There are so many parts that I love, but I think that my favorite would have to be when the main characters are in the Ape Caves, running from spiders and play hopscotch in the lava river.
- How long did it take you to write SONORA AND THE EYE OF THE TITANS?
It took me 3 months to write the first draft, and then 2 years to get a final draft completed.
- If you were stranded on a desert island which of your characters do you want by your side?
I would have to say Baymar. He’s a jellyfish man with the ability to breath underwater. He would come real handy on an island. Not a very good conversationalist though.
- If you could be best friends with one of your characters, who would it be?
That is an easy one. Sas! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be best friends with a bumbling Sasquatch that hordes camping gear, lives in an awesome cave, and can shoot lightning out of his hands!
- What is your favorite book that you wrote?
My first book: Sonora, and the Eye of the Titans.
- What's your favorite book-turned movie?
Frank Herbert’s - Dune (and not the remake mini-series)
- How do you overcome writer’s block?
I like to sit in the shower and think of new ways to go with my stories. Another trick is to start writing a whole new story or character description.
- What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck right now because I’m going to be travelling around the US for the next 6 months on a book tour of indie bookstores, so I thought it was an appropriate read before the trip.
- What do you prefer paperback, hardcover, or ebooks?
Paperback. I love being able to read anywhere and everywhere.
- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Don’t stop dreaming. Your soul is leading you down the wanted path within your dreams. You’ve just got to have the courage to follow!
- Did you always want to be a writer or did that come to you later in life?
The short answer would be, I came to it later in life. I was about 25 years old when I awoke from a dream and started writing. It wasn't until I found so much joy in the process that I realized that the writer's path was how I wanted to spend my life. But I had realized that so many years before. When I was about eight years old, I had written a story about a mouse and his adventures on a farm battling rats. I was a big fan of The Secret of Nimh and Brian Jacques' Redwall series. They influenced a lot of my writing at the time. Unfortunately, I never kept pursuing that path. So much of my youth was spent focusing on a "practical" means of living my life. This would exclude writing and anything artistic. I would come to regret that decision, but I've always believed that our destiny will lead us toward what we are passionate about. My passion has always been stories, whether that is in books, movies, plays, or even live storytelling (one of my favorite platforms).
When I started writing my first book, I was very naive and ignorant for what was to come. What I realized after years of struggling to gain readership was that book marketing is just as intensive and important to an author as is writing a good story. I'm going to lay out a few tips in this post that may help you to navigate the intricacies of book marketing in this new age.
What's in a Name?
Since your name isn't Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, you need to make a name for yourself. Branding is just as important to an author as it is for consumer products. What is your name? Are you going with a pen name, your own name, or an initialized version? I went with initials because I want more focus on my stories than my gender or my own story. Once you've decided on your author name, stick to it. Amazon isn't very flexible when it comes to changing names, and your book reviews won't switch over if you change it during the midway point (I know from experience).
Who are you selling your story to? Is there a specific demographic, gender, or interest group? For the younger generation, it is difficult to gain the interest because you've got to get into places that young people will see your stuff. I would suggest going to an event, such as Comic-Con or a gaming expo or something in that realm. There are many book expos that you can sign up for as well.
The easiest, and cheapest, form of marketing is to gain an audience through social media outlets. That includes Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Youtube, Bookbub, and others. I suggest getting these going before you ever write a single word of your book. Wattpad is also a good tool in gaining feedback on your writing. Interact with readers, authors, and others in the industry so that you can tweak your writing/story so that it will be perfect when you finally decide to release it. Plus, gaining early interest and reviews will help to get your name out there.
Goodreads and Amazon are a great way to get your book out there for readers. I always do a Goodreads giveaway for at least one paperback copy of my books. This will help add your book to reader's lists of books, and Goodreads will constantly send mailings to those readers about your giveaways. Amazon is great for adding twitter followers or tweeting your messages to that social media outlet. It will also send your ebook to potential reviewers.
This is one of the most important tasks you'll undertake as an author. To gain reviews for your books is crucial in gaining exposure. Amazon, and many other book blogs, will look at your reviews to assess potential for further marketing of your books. You've got to get at least 50 reviews for Amazon or Bookbub to place your novel in their marketing emails. 200 reviews with an average of 3.75 stars out of 5 is worth more than 20 reviews at an average of 4.5 stars. To start, I would suggest asking friends and family to read and review, then you've got to get readers to place that review. That is the difficult part. Bug them. It is worth it.
The mailing list is essential. Its a bit daunting to get up and running. I suggest starting with Mailchimp since its free for a certain number of emails, then switch over to another mailing service. I would also suggest getting your website to pop-up a window that collects emails that you can utilize in reaching out to your fans. I would start by doing a newsletter every few months, and then every month. Include your updates, new giveaways, book releases, etc.
There are many websites out there that you can pay to advertise on, but they are not very effective. I know, I've tried. Paid way to much, and didn't receive that much in return. The best course, if you are paying, is to use the Amazon Marketing Services (www.ams.amazon.com). I use keywords that relate to my novel, along with a few other authors or books in my genre. This will post your book in the display for sponsored products, and is the best way for readers to find your book. Facebook advertising is also good, but its way too expensive.
I've put together a list of a number of sites that authors can use to help promote their books. Some are free, some paid. I hope this list helps other authors pursue their dreams! If you know of any others, please include them in the comments section of this post.
Armadillo EBooks http://www.armadilloebooks.com/submit-free-ebooks/
Ask David http://askdavid.com/book-promotion
Awesome Gang http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/
Bargain Booksy https://www.bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/
Book Angel http://bookangel.co.uk/submit-a-book/
Book Bongo http://bookbongo.com/submit/
Book Goodies https://bookgoodies.com/authors-start-here/
Book Lemur http://www.booklemur.com/pages/promotion.php
Books Butterfly http://booksbutterfly.com/bookpromotion/freebookpromotion/
Choosy Bookworm https://choosybookworm.com/promote-your-ebooks/
Content Mo http://contentmo.com/submit-your-free-ebook-promo
Discount Book Man http://discountbookman.com/book-promotion/
E Reader Love http://www.ereaderlove.com/contact-us-submit-a-book/
EBook Habits http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
EBook Lister http://www.ebooklister.net/submit.php
EBook Skill https://www.ebookskill.com/pin-your-book.html
EReader News Today http://ereadernewstoday.com/ent-free-book-submissions/#
Free Book Dude http://www.freebookdude.com/list-your-free-kindle-books-here
Free Booksy https://www.freebooksy.com/freebooksy-feature-pricing/
Free Discounted Books http://freediscountedbooks.com/submit/
Free Kindle Books http://fkbt.com/for-authors/
Free Kindle Deal http://www.freekindledeal.com/submit.php
Frugal Freebies http://www.frugal-freebies.com/p/submit-freebie.html
Fussy Librarian http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/
Genre Pulse http://www.genrepulse.com/genre-specific/
I Love Books http://www.iloveebooks.com/for-authors.html
Indie Book of the Day http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/free-on-kindle-listing/
It's Write Now http://itswritenow.com/submit-your-book/
Jungle Deals http://jungledealsandsteals.com/paid-ebook-listings/
Kover Konnection http://www.kornerkonnection.com/index.html
Lovely Books http://lovelybookpromotions.com/submit-your-kindle-freebie/
Many Books http://manybooks.net/promote
My Book Cave https://mybookcave.com/subscribers-and-pricing/
New Free Kindle eBooks http://newfreekindlebooks.com/authors/
One Hundred Free Books https://ohfb.com/book-sale-notice/
Pretty Hot http://pretty-hot.com/submit-your-book/
Read Cheaply http://readcheaply.com/partners/#guidelines
Reading Deals http://readingdeals.com/submit-ebook
Reign of Reads http://reignofreads.com/authors-get
Robin Reads http://robinreads.com/author-signup/
The Reader Cafe http://theereadercafe.com/promote-your-books/
Totally Free Stuff http://www.totallyfreestuff.com/submit.asp
Zwoodle Books http://zwoodlebooks.com/authors-and-publishers/
The Idea - There are many ways that people come up with their first idea for a plot. It could come from another book or a movie. Some find it from their personal experiences, and others may just snatch it right out of the air while they're bored at work. My first idea came from a dream. All my ideas have come from dreams (yes, some are day dreams).
Brain Explosion - Write the damn thing out! Yes, my suggestion to you is to just start writing. Whether that be a first draft, a basic outline of the story, character synopsis, just the ending, or an overview of the concept. Once you've got an idea, the best choice of action will be to get everything from your mind/brain out on paper. What you will write, will be crap. Don't worry about it though. You just need to get all the nuances of the story out of your head so that you can play around with different aspects of the plot, character development, etc.
First Draft - Once you've got the basic story outline, start writing the first draft. I normally go from start to finish. Now, this won't be a very good piece of writing. Even Steven King has trouble with his first drafts. There will be plot holes, grammar and spelling mistakes, character flops, and parts of your writing that will ultimately need to be erased. Don't fret. Just get a first draft done.
Editing - This is where most of your book will evolve. Editing is where you will truly write your book. There will, most likely, be MANY rounds of editing. I'd start by doing a basic round of editing first. Then, once you've realized how crappy your first draft is, you'll need to do a chapter overview, and start moving around your plot so that it follows a more climatic flow. If your first chapter isn't catchy, then find where the action starts, and use that as your first chapter. Many readers will throw your book aside if they are not hooked in the first couple pages.
The Internet - Since you've decided by now that this book is not going to just be read by yourself, you'll need to start thinking about book marketing right away. You could start by gaining a following on sites like Wattpad or Smashwords. You could post a first chapter (only when you know that it is almost perfectly edited). I would think about getting a blog or website. Definitely sign up on Goodreads, and start interacting with other authors in your genre. There are also many Facebook groups that are helpful for first-time authors. Also, you should gain followers on Twitter, Bookbub, Facebook, and YouTube.
Final Draft - Once you've gone through your 20th round of editing (that is not an exaggeration), I would suggest finding a skilled editor to look over your book. Make sure to find a specific professional who knows what they are doing or use an editing service to work over your final draft. Yes, you'll have to shell out the dough (money). Also, make sure you get a contract signed with that individual or service company that outlines what they'll do, when it will be completed by, and how much it will cost. Trust me, this is a necessary step.
Traditional Publishing - There are the big 6 publishing houses in NYC that would be great to get signed with, but it is difficult to get their attention. A literary agent will be necessary to get your manuscript in front of one of those publishing houses. To do that, you'll need to write a very intriguing query letter (a synopsis of your story) that showcases your writing acumen, and the greatness of your book. Find a specific literary agent that represent books in your category or genre. Make sure to look at their specific submission guidelines.
Self Publishing - Now that you've received numerous rejection letters (I've got about 50 so far), you may want to think about self publishing. This is the part where you need to decide how much you want to be an author. Now, after numerous bottles of wine and pitty parties, you are now ready to be a self published author! Yes, this is the more difficult path to author success, but a very rewarding journey. Start by finding a self publishing service. There are many out there, but I've found that Createspace is the best for me. They were acquired by Amazon, so it gives you a direct platform to distribution through Amazon.
Cover - You know that saying? That one about judging books by their cover. Well.... EVERYONE DOES IT! Yes, it is true. Now that you know, your best option is to find a great cover artist to get it right. At this point, go into Goodreads or Amazon and take a look at other covers in your genre that are selling really well. Go to the best seller list and get a feel for what looks good. Some prefer a person on the cover, and some don't. You'll need to decide how best to sell your story from the cover. It's not an exact science, and you can always get a new edition done with a different cover, so don't fret. Just understand though, the cover design is one of the most important aspects to sell your book.
Formatting - Make your book interior look like a book. What I mean is that you should pay for a service to get the font, chapter titles, interior design, etc. done properly. Createspace has a service that you can utilize (its kind of expensive).
Launch - Book launches are tricky. I always suggest trying to get a few reviews online before the actual launch. You could start by doing a Goodreads giveaway or send a copy of your book to friends and family. Reviews are going to be important so that people can see the legitimacy of your work. If you enroll in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, you can do free giveaways of your ebook to kindle users. Amazon giveaways are a great way to get it into reader's hands. If its a part of a series, and you've got the other books published, you can price the first book as perma-free, which will draw in more readers to your series.
Aftermath - At this point, you're a published author. Pat yourself on the back. Congratulate yourself. Throw a party! But now, your journey has just begun. Get ready for the gut-wrenching feeling when you get your first one-star review, or when you look at your sales for the month and you've sold one copy. Having pretty much drained your savings, you are now a broke author with only a dream. Hope will be your guiding light at this point. If you believe in the power of your story, other people will follow. There will be times that you'll look in the mirror and wonder what the hell you're doing, but don't let doubt creep in. You can never fail if you never give up.
Find additional info here: www.sonoraseries.com
My name is T.S. Hall. I'm a young-adult urban fantasy author. I grew up in Portland, spent the last few years in the mountains of Idaho, and now I'm bringing my new book series to the world.